President-elect Joe Biden has said he wants to make the coronavirus pandemic his top priority as he takes office and will kick off his presidency by asking Americans to wear masks for 100 days and requiring their use on federal property.
His first executive order, the "100 Days Masking Challenge," will symbolize the administration's sharp turn from the Trump era by emphasizing recommendations by public health experts.
Why not order everyone to don masks? A president cannot tell states or cities what to do, but a federal mandate will affect federal offices and federal lands and will urge states to do the same.
"This executive action will direct the agencies to take action to require compliance with CDC guidance on mask wearing and physical distancing in federal buildings, on federal lands and by federal employees and contractors," said Biden counselor Jeff Zients, who will be the administration's Covid-19 response coordinator.
"And the president will call on governors, public health officials, mayors, business leaders and others to implement masking, physical distancing and other public measures to control COVID-19," Zients added.
"This is not a political statement. This is about the health of our families, and economic recovery of our country."
Trump pointedly refused to wear a mask in public throughout his presidency, and Trump political appointees across federal agencies often discouraged mask use among their staff. Largely mask-free events sponsored by the White House were linked to multiple Covid-19 infections, including a party surrounding the swearing-in of Supreme Court justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Trump was himself hospitalized for a coronavirus infection in October.
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